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How do I get my toddler to stop speaking like my Caribbean nanny?

We love her, but she speaks very poorly. things like "I didn't say nothing"-- and now our 3 year old speaks the same way from time to time. I'm curious if anyone else has encountered the same thing. thanks.

Tue. Apr 10, 8:01am

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Absolutely - toddlers are little sponges aren't they? My 3 yr old nephew has a Russian teach at his daycare. She speaks very correct english and now he often falls into her speach patterns. He also says "Yes" very correctly and completely (like she does) when all the other little ones I know usually say 'yeah' or 'yep' - that's the thing everyone notices and remarks on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 9:29 AM

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maybe you could buy her (or get from the library) some books on learning proper english / grammar? i'm sure it would benefit her immensely and it would help you, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 9:41 AM

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Is this a serious question?

If it is, there is probably nothing you can do except get a new nanny, or stay home yourself. Toddlers are like sponges - they are absorbing and learning new things every second.

If she's with the nanny more than she is with you it is inevitable that she will learn more from the nanny, including speech habits.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 9:42 AM

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Yes, this is a serious question. My wife and I both work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 9:58 AM

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You probably want to have a discussion with your nanny about the problem you're seeing, but be careful as it is a sensitive subject. If she were doing something else you didn't approve of - i.e. smoking in front of the toddler, and then the toddler began imitating - it wouldn't be hard to say "please don't do that in front of the toddler, it's teaching him/her bad habits," but with something related to levels of education, such as speech patterns, it's more difficult. But in a sense, it's the same thing.

At the same time, when you hear your toddler say something improperly, be sure to correct him/her. If he says "I didn't do nothing," you say, "you mean, you didn't do anything." The child will eventually pick up on it. Additionally, s/he will be in school part- or full-time in not too long, and the teachers will correct him if he speaks improperly (this is something you can specifically ask the teachers to do as well), and he'll be around other kids speaking properly, so he'll learn what is proper then as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 10:10 AM

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there are tapes and cd's that help people who are learning english. you could have these in the house for your nanny and child to listen to as they are in the house. they would both learn something. it would also show your nanny that you value her and want to help her improve her communication skills. have you discussed the situation with your nanny? maybe she would have some input, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 10:13 AM

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For what its worth, I studied Linguistics, and children will absorb EVERYTHING including accents and multiple languages with ease. If you and your husband speak to your child in proper English, you child will absorb the way you speak.

However, when correcting your child's language, MOST DEFINATELY be positive!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 10:18 AM

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It's a phase. I have a brother who married a woman from Poland and she worked very hard to learn english but their small children often started a sentence in one language and finished in another or would use polish adjective followed by an english noun, etc. It was cute, but they were very worried. Now the children are at the top of their class and the speak very little polish (which they are trying to teach again). They just heard it growing up and did the same thing Mommy did. Its just a stage and once they are out conversing with other children on a regular basis it will diappear- If not sooner.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 10:31 AM

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The accent will fall off once the child goes to school. I wouldn't worry about it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 3:10 PM

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I agree that correcting your child when she misspeaks is the best bet. Your nanny may be very insulted that you feel she doesnt speak well. Its hard sometimes to get through to small children whos minds are usually going a mile a minute... I've found the best way to get my kids to remember things is not only to say it to them, for example : "Its I didnt say anything, not I didnt say nothing". But rather to have them repeat it: " Its not I didnt say nothing, whats the right way to say it?"... If they have to think about it themselves, they'll start to pay closer attention.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 7:37 PM

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i'm sorry to be so harsh, but this thread nauseates me. your child is NOT going to continue to say "i didn't do nothing" for the rest of her/his life unless YOU talk like that. i find it appalling that people would advocate telling your nanny her english is "improper". gawd, get a real problem.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 7:44 PM

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People, people, people, okay this toddler is only 3. Tapes and books on proper grammar is not going to work for a toddler of 3. If your child is with her all day, 5 days a week there is nothing you can really do. You can nicely talk to your nanny about your concerns, but be careful you don't hurt her feelings, english is her 2nd language and if you like her and she is a good nanny you don't want to lose her. Just start correcting your child when you notice it. But more then likely it will stop once he/she starts school.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 9:47 PM

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i don't understand how it would be so offensive to point out that the nanny can improve her communication skills a bit by using proper grammar. it will benefit her, not hurt her, to understand how to effectively say what she means. playing a tape that is designed for just this purpose can totally aid her. unless you make fun of her or belittle her in some way, i think it is a great gesture in welcoming her to this country and helping her get the most of the experience. i speak enough spanish to get by, but if i moved to and worked in a spanish language dominated area, i would do well to improve my grammar. it would help me to understand others, too. it opens up the chance to hold more meaningful discussions and invites each other into conversations where one may have been at a loss before. i do not see it as insulting at all. unlike the suggestion to "get a real problem."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 9:43 AM

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My fiance learned in his child development class that using double negatives is a classic toddler behavior -- maybe it's unrelated to the nanny? Also, around here in San Diego, people see their children learning Spanish from their nannies as a big plus, as it will help them pick it up later and they'll be bilingual. In some ways, Caribbean English isn't nec "wrong" english, just a different dialect. Your kid will be bilingual for this dialect -- might be a plus in the future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 9:53 AM

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are you serious? Bi lingual for this dialect? Improper English is not a dialect. Maybe I should teach my child ebonics in the hope they'll be bilingual.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 1:22 PM

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i know the comment about ebonics is said with a snide tone, but in my opinion, whatever it takes to bridge the gaps between people in order to further communication and conversation is worth doing. if a lot of the people in my area spoke in what's termed "ebonics", i would learn the "language". just because it may be seen as a form of slang-language does not mean that people are not using it as an every day way of communication. in fact, ebonics has a historical place in the black american society / culture and many people study it to better understand their language history.

my boss has a daughter with a woman from the domican republic. she usually speaks in completely broken english. my boss is an american with a great command of the english language. his daughter has no detectable problems speaking properly and even when she is talking with her mother, who often uses double negatives and uses language patterns derived from her native tongue, their daughter knows what is being said and responds correctly with regard to grammar. their daughter is 3 1/2 years old.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 2:25 PM

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Do you think speaking in double negitives is the only negitive behavior she is learning from her nannie?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 9:25 PM

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what are you implying, if anything? to what other "negative behaviour" could you be referring?

Thursday, April 12, 2007, 9:24 AM

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Simplest solution is to deal with it and expect that it will resolve itself when she gets older, or get a new nanny, who speaks english the way you feel it should be spoken.

Thursday, April 12, 2007, 10:29 AM

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maybe you've never had a nanny, but replacing one is not simple. finding someone you can trust and who your child is comfortable around is the opposite of simple. especially if she has been with your family for a while.

i would definitely discuss the option of helping the nanny improve her own english grammar skills. what has she got to lose?

Thursday, April 12, 2007, 10:35 AM

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I am from a bilingual household (Mandarin Chinese is my parent's first language.) I'm also the oldest in a family of 3 siblings

My sister (3 years younger) started out speaking a mixture of Chinese & English because of my influence.... At first, my parents were worried about her speech patterns because she would speak 1/2 "baby talk" and 1/2 Chinese / English.... (not only did I "Teach" her English--from what I learned in school--I also tended to finish her sentences in both languages....)

When she started school, they sent her to a speech therapist for her "baby talk".... However, once she was around other children, her English rapidly improved.... She ended up being an English Major in college.... :-)

As it is, I travelled to China after I graduated from High School and my relatives told me I spoke Chinese with a Shanghai-nese accent (not an American accent.) I speak English with a Michigan accent.

As parents, the OP needs to take time with the child to teach him what they want him to learn. Yes, he will absorb what is learned through the nanny, but when the parents get home, do THEY take time to work with the child? That may be the bigger issue....If they don't take time out of their "busy" schedule to be with the child and to teach the child their own ideas, ways of speaking, etc., then what do they expect the child to learn?

Regarding the comment about "ebonics".... I found that to be an inflammatory statement. I'm sure that there are people of varying educational backgrounds on this site... and various ethnic backgrounds as well...

We're not all a group of highly educated white suburban people-- we come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, etc.... Some of us have had a college education, some of us are still in high school, some of us might not have any higher education, some of us are "American" English speakers/writers, some of us are not....

A bigger issue to the "problem" at hand... might be why the OP hired that particular nanny... I'm sure that economics is a part of why the chose the person to watch their child... I'll make a bet that cost factored into the equation.... The more educated the nanny, the more expensive the nanny... no?

Instead of making it an issue of "proper English" or not, perhaps this could be a good time for the OP to learn from the nanny and vice versa? Maybe the parents could encourage the Nanny to share some of her cultural traditions, etc. with the parents and child--slang and dialect being part of the educational benefits of having the nanny.... The parents could explain (in a simplistic way) to the child that people come from all sorts of places.

At the same time, I think the parents may "assist" the nanny improve her grasp of the English language, but they need to do that in a kind and non-condescending way-- Share with her some of the colloquialisms, food and American culture, too...

Make this a whole cultural learning experience for the whole family...

I'm sure the child will be fine!

Thursday, April 12, 2007, 12:25 PM

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on ebonics

here's the thing, another dialect IS another language in a sense.

The dialect of ebonics is a completely different language! it is truly like being bilingual. it's not just improper english, but it's instead a whole different language. it comes from the times of slavery, when slaves were transported on slave ships and they heard the irish and english speak in improper english with double negatives. since this was the first english that they heard, this is what they learned. i bet that if you were stuck in an "urban" (a euphemism that white people use for the word BLACK) school where all that anyone spoke was ebonics, you would consider it another language when you started to pick up. if you can't understand it, it's another language.

people don't think ebonics is another language because they consider it a form of ignorance. it's not a form of ignorance, but it's the way a language developed because of slavery. so yeah, if your kid learned ebonics he would be bilingual.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 7:51 PM

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At that age I had a part-time caregiver who spoke the "ebonic" dialect and lived in a racially mixed neighborhood in which many of my friends in the same neighborhood also spoke like that. (I am white, middle-class, and speak standard American English as an adult.) By the time I was 5 my mother marveled at how I could speak one dialect to her and a completely different one to my friends.

As many here have suggested, my mother corrected my errors and modeled standard English herself, without challenging my friends, my friends' parents, or my babysitter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 9:33 PM

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I think CDs/Tapes/Books for the nanny would not do much good. She's probably learned English as well as she could. As long as you correct your son/daughter when you are with them the minute they start school that will disappear.
I don't have kids yet, but my friends that do all have foreign nannies and their children pick up the way the nanny talks, but as soon as they get to kindergarden and start interacting with other kids and their teachers on a constant basis the accent and way they speak will change.
From the kids I've seen grow up with a foreign nanny they always turn out fine.

Thursday, April 16, 2009, 1:18 PM

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Wow, so many opinions. I'm curious about a few things.

Did you interview the nanny before hiring her? Did her lack of proper grammar not appear during the interview?

Are you more concerned about hiring a new nanny than you are about how your child is speaking?

Is the amount of time you spend with your child so minimal that your influence doesn't override the influence of the nanny?

Thursday, April 16, 2009, 10:39 PM

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The important thing is that your nanny takes good care of your child and gives him a secure base in the world when you are not around. Stop worrying about the grammar and accent and start thanking your lucky stars you have a good nanny. Your child will speak the way you do and the way teachers and peers do at school.

Thursday, April 16, 2009, 11:01 PM

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PP- Amen!

Friday, April 17, 2009, 7:32 AM

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think this is one of the most ridiculous threads ever! i sure hope the nanny is not reading any of this! maybe we should all try and go to a far off land and get a job working for some rich person taking care of their children, and see how it feels! this thread is also dated. i am sure the now 5 year old is fine. being exposed to another culture is the best thing for children, and adults alike!

Friday, April 17, 2009, 7:55 AM

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Aside from the fact that this thread is outdated and the OP already made her choices 2 years ago.
7:55 Just because people have nannies doesn't make them super rich to start off. Secondly not all families are financially able to have one parent stay home with the kids.
Personally I think it's rather close minded of people to look down and question the OP for even thinking to bring up this question. It's a valid concern.

Friday, April 17, 2009, 10:58 AM

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she will grow out of it....

Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:51 PM

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